23 January Update

This bit written last night at Cleveland Airport waiting for delayed flight that meant I couldn’t get to Florida till next morning at best.

Ying and Yang. I’m coming back in the next lifetime as a potato.

Ying: The Ivory Gull experience will never be forgotten.

Yang: Literally seconds after I pushed the ‘book this flight’ trip from Duluth to Cleveland for the Brambling, an 
eBird update came in with news of an American Flamingo near Ft Meyer, Fla. It was a surprisingly expensive flight, so I kept it, with the hope that if the Flamingo hangs around for a second day, it will stay on for three.

Ying: The good news thereafter is that the long-serving Brambling was easily found early avo when I finally got there. It was also about that time that it became apparent that whilst the Flamingo had been sighted in the morning, it has quite possibly split the scene, since there are no other reports throughout the day – and there should have been plenty. Still, I figured it’s a smart move to get to Florida, and if the bird isn’t around, maybe spend a day or two of birding, as I’ve just about run out of vagrants to chase.

Yang: Finishing the Brambling so early, I tried to change my flight to an earlier one, since the intended arrival was after midnight. No good, so I pulled my photo storage device (with all my precious photos so far – offering nice confidence against any future nay-sayers re some of the rarities) out of the suitcase to put in my carryon after pulling over to top up fuel. I got to the airport with close to four hours up my sleeve. Got through security screening and sat down to start editing photos. No storage drive in my carryon. So back through the airport and the rental car shuttle bus with heart in stomach, or however the expression goes. I rang the service station while on the bus in case it was left on the snowy carpark where I did the luggage rearranging – no.

Ying: The girls at Hertz were pleased to see me, asking if I saw the bird I’d told them I was here for. Yeah, but the end of the world is nigh. One of them got on the phone and had the guys on the lot look for my car. Five long minutes later: YES. Whew. Back through security, ready for flight to Atlanta then Ft Meyer. Guess what?

Yang: The flight is delayed by two hours, so I’ll miss the connection. Have booked an expensive hotel in Atlanta, and will get to Fort Meyer 10AM tomorrow.

Note: above was written yesterday, which seems a week ago. I’m resuming now, and have lost interest in the ying-yang yo-yo approach. 

I finally got to Fort Myers this morning at 10AM. But was caught up in Budget waiting line for a precious 45 minutes. The Flamingo had been reported at 7:30, which put a lot of wind in my sails. And windy it was – with 35mph with 50mph gusts forecast, and seemingly in play. The bird had disappeared at 10ish yesterday, so I was getting pretty fired up by the time I got my car. Followed the gps to the site – a 35 minute drive, with dry mouth and wet palms. Screeched into the makeshift dirt carpark at ??? Beach and grabbed a woman with binoculars with the knowing “Is it there?!” She said “YES”, take your time, it’s a five minute walk along the beach to the right – but it’s a long way out. I pulled a groin muscle running – and saw a woman with a camera pointing it to sea, about the time my lungs were were ballooning in and out of my mouth. I scanned with the binocs, and only saw something big, flying away. Way away. Jogged a bit closer to the woman and scanned again. Holy crap!! It was much closer to shore. Much redder and chunkier than the replica Greater Flamingo I situated at the back of Lake Wilson on Cocos last year in the best birding practical joke ever, though it has not been properly acknowledged as such, yet. Mainly because loose lips sunk the ship (Geof with one f!). The real bird I saw this morning was genuinely the best bird I’ve ever seen. It’s a 'coded' rarity, and a great one to have under my belt. I’m still stunned.

So I drove the three hours to Miami Dade County site of the reported Green-breasted Mango (a hummingbird from the Bahamas) and arrived at 3:30PM. Probably a dozen other birders there – and the good news was that one person said he'd seen it at 2ish, and several people reported that they had heard it. I saw two Buff-bellied Hummingbirds and a half-dozen Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, which was a great experience. No luck with the Mango up til too late in avo, so I’m hunkered down in a way overpriced dump, with hormone-driven teenage kids running up and down the hallway and suspicious itches already. Will spend as long as it takes tomorrow to either see or give up on the mega hummer tomorrow. Following images are of the best bird ever, and the Brambling from yesterday.

PS: I miss Robyn, and am looking forward to her joining me in about three weeks’ time.